Questions About Fluency Instruction

The following are answers to frequent questions teachers have about fluency instruction.

How do I find my students' fluency score?

Do a one-minute reading assessment. Total words read (minus) errors made = words correct per minute.

  • Select a 100 word passage from a grade-level text.
  • Have individual students read each passage aloud for exactly one minute.
  • Count the total number of words the student read for each passage.
  • Count the number of errors the student made on each passage.
  • Subtract the number of errors read per minute from the total number of words read per minute. The result is the average number of words correct per minute (WCPM).
  • Repeat the procedure several times during the year. Graphing students' WCPM throughout the year easily captures their reading growth.

How many words per minute should my students be reading?

The following are the number of words students should be able to read correctly at the end of each year:

  • 1st grade: 60
  • 2nd grade: 90
  • 3rd grade: 115

What should I do about silent, independent reading in the classroom?

Reading fluency growth is greatest when students are working directly with you. Therefore, you should use most of your allocated reading instruction time for direct teaching of reading skills and strategies. Although silent, independent reading may be a way to increase fluency and reading achievement, it should not be used in place of direct instruction in reading.

Direct instruction is especially important for readers who are struggling. Readers who have not yet attained fluency are not likely to make effective and efficient use of silent, independent reading time. For these students, independent reading takes time away from needed reading instruction.

When should fluency instruction begin?

Fluency instruction is useful when students are not automatic at recognizing the words in the texts. How can you tell when students are not automatic? There is a strong indication that a student needs fluency instruction:

  • if you ask the student to read orally from a text that he or she has not practiced; and the student makes more than ten percent word recognition errors;
  • if the student cannot read orally with expression; or
  • if the student's comprehension is poor for the text that she or he reads orally.

Is increasing word recognition skills sufficient for developing fluency?

Isolated word recognition is a necessary but not sufficient condition for fluent reading. Throughout much of the twentieth century, it was widely assumed that fluency was the result of word recognition proficiency. Instruction, therefore, focused primarily on the development of word recognition. In recent years, however, research has shown that fluency is a separate component of reading that can be developed through instruction.

Having students review and rehearse word lists (for example, by using flash cards) may improve their ability to recognize the words in isolation, but this ability may not transfer to words presented in actual texts. Developing reading fluency in texts must be developed systematically.

Should I assess fluency? If so, how?

You should formally and informally assess fluency regularly to ensure that your students are making appropriate progress. The most informal assessment is simply listening to students read aloud and making a judgment about their progress in fluency. You should, however, also include more formal measures of fluency.

Probably the easiest way to formally assess fluency is to take timed samples of students' reading and to compare their performance (number of words read correctly per minute) with published oral reading fluency norms or standards.

Monitoring your students' progress in reading fluency will help you determine the effectiveness of your instruction and set instructional goals. Also, seeing their fluency growth reflected in the graphs you keep can motivate students.

Adapted from: Put Reading First: The Research Building Blocks for Teaching Children to Read, 2001, a publication of The Partnership for Reading.


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My son, age 8, 2nd grade, reads 24 WPM (words per minute) after 3 months of Wilson Reading intervention. He is diagnosed with dyslexia. However, he is also qualified as highly gifted. His Processing Speed is 4-5 standard deviations apart from the other areas of IQ (Verbal Comprehension
Perceptual Reasoning, Working Memory) on the WISC IV. A low fluency rate is a HUGE red flag for a reading and/or processing disability. Also, even with a slow rate, a child can have good to excellent comprehension, and isn't that what reading is really all about? Comprehension. It is good to know about the fluency issues though b/c accommodations are critical to support a slow reader.

I agree that WPM can be un-useful, my son will stop and look at the pictures in the middle of reading. Not because he can't read but because he understands the words he is reading and wants to stop and analyze the picture...but the timer would show that he has a very low WPM.

My daughter is 4 and reading 160 words per minute. I believe our use of your baby can read made all the difference highly recommend to new parents but you must not watch tv uniti they are older

I think they should do away with the wpm reading, NOT all kids are the same and read at different speeds, No one seems to understand this concept...

MY 1st grader was readng 167 wpm last year. She will be tested for GATE this school year. Parents can achieve this with early education. Starting at home

My first grader read 122 wpm, but my step son in fourth can only read 76 wpm. is my first grader exceptional or my fourth grader not so much?

My first grader was at about the same level as yours when she was in first grade. I think your fourth grader needs some serious coaching to get him up to grade level.

what is the ideal numbr of correct words per minute for english language learners ( in 8th grade)?

excellent notification and very good ideas for the teachers of different level grade.I am teacher and i got the ideas where to improve the students fluency in reading

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